This monumental work on paper depicts a handcuffed male prisoner hunched in front of a fire between two giant guards in a desolate, industrial winter landscape. Behind him another man carries an armload of wood, and in the middle distance, beyond the hostile rise of the fire’s dense, gray smoke, two men tussle violently with a third figure. The male guard on the left is expressionless and static. Cavemanlike, he holds his machine gun against his side as if it were a club. His counterpart on the right is a sturdy woman who leans into the scene holding a menacing baton, but looks away from the violence. As in many of Rauch's ambiguous and menacing narratives, Treason presents a dreamlike, authoritarian, retro-futuristic fantasy.
The enigmatic atmosphere and ominous figures in this work are typical elements of Rauch’s visual language. He grew up in Communist East Germany, where he studied at the Leipzig Academy and was trained in German Romanticism and Socialist Realism, styles that continue to influence his work. The saturated industrial colors, hard-edge realism, collagelike aesthetic, multiperspectival view, and ambiguous narrative that characterize Treason are significant elements in his oeuvre overall.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, p. 209.